*Now* we’re off and running.
The NHL season is in full swing. We’re all questioning the Penguins after a “slow” start, the Oilers are puttering along and we’re hurtling toward a Stanley Cup Final featuring the Lightning and Blues.
Well, we’re not hurtling. But that’s the danger of drawing your conclusions this early in the season.
Yes, the standings are predictably a bit tighter than they were a week ago and the poor Golden Knights are on to another goaltender. And just last night, a three-way mega deal disrupted the NHL as Matt Duchene was finally traded. Let’s jump right in.
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We thought a few days ago that the reported three-way trade between the Avalanche, Predators and Senators was all but dead. Guess what? Not so much!
While the Avalanche were in Brooklyn to play the Islanders, Duchene — rumored to be on the trading block since last season — left the ice early and the speculation wagon was rocking and rolling. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman soon confirmed Duchene was part of the previously-rumored deal, an early season stunner that saw two important players from two different teams changing addresses.
Kyle Turris’ name first came up as a potential deadline acquisition a few weeks ago when it was unclear whether he and the Senators made progress toward a new contract. Now, Turris is a Predator and Duchene is coming to the Canadian capital.
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The Rangers are back …
Kind of. A week ago, we were wondering if Lindy Ruff was in line to succeed Alain Vigneault if the Rangers lost a Tuesday home game to the Golden Knights. Thankfully for the Rangers, the Golden Knights are kind of a mess in net and they were able to drop six on Vegas. All the sudden, New York has won three in a row after an overtime win over the Lightning and then, again, an OT win over Panthers Saturday night. They’re in the Eastern Conference wild-card picture.
Kevin Shattenkirk is coming along. Pavel Buchnevich is scoring some goals. The Rangers have the ability to claw their way back but the division is just too good and too unforgiving if they don’t go on a run here.
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What’s wrong with the Oilers?
It ain’t good.
The Oilers got pounded by the Red Wings on home ice last night and it was … ugly. Edmonton has been an oddly quiet team at the start and, for whatever reason, they don’t look or feel threatening. Connor McDavid hasn’t received much help, and as we discussed here last week, GM Peter Chiarelli sounds like he’s ready to wave the white flag on the Ryan Strome deal.
Milan Lucic has two goals in 12 games. The Jussi Jokinen signing, thought to add depth to their forward group, hasn’t worked out either. Cam Talbot can certainly play better; the Oilers’ No. 1 goaltender has started 12 of their first 15 games and his save percentage, hovering around the .900 mark, isn’t going to cut it for a team that struggles defensively.
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Vegas is hanging around, for now
The Golden Knights are in the middle of their first road trip and are finding out what it’s like when teams are ready for you. Vegas got out to a hot start thanks to one of the NHL’s easiest schedules and a ton of home games, but it hasn’t been as smooth in the last week or so.
Yes, they’re absolutely devastated at the goaltending position. They’re shooting at a high percentage and their underlying metrics aren’t great. But the Golden Knights have put themselves in position to at least stay in the conversation for longer than any of us thought they would, and a strong first month of their inaugural season has everyone paying attention.
Vegas is 9-4-0 entering the week, and they’ll face the Maple Leafs and Canadiens back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday before returning home to face the Jets on Friday. How long can they continue like this, as one of the NHL’s best stories?
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Great game alert: TB-CBJ
Saturday night’s tangle between the Blue Jackets and Lightning didn’t look like much at the start. Just as they did two weeks ago at Nationwide Arena, the Lightning were all over the Blue Jackets early on, but actually capitalized this time around. After a fluky opening goal for Columbus, Tampa Bay scored two quick goals to take a lead and in the second period, built a 4-2 lead with the game in their control.
The third period? All Blue Jackets.
It was about as dead-even as a game can get, really. The Lightning punched early, then the Blue Jackets fired back in the first period. Tampa Bay was excellent in the second period and Columbus answered with a strong third to send the game to overtime. A power play chance for the Blue Jackets — their Achilles’ heel to this point — was fruitless in overtime and Steven Stamkos scored the only shootout goal.
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Back and forth, chance after chance … you could see why these two teams are so highly regarded. They’re deep, they’re talented and Tampa Bay’s quality is probably a notch about Columbus, but the Blue Jackets really work to manufacture offense. We’re a long ways off, but if these two met in a playoff series, how much fun would that be?
You’ve got friends and Russian countrymen Andrei Vasilevskiy for Tampa Bay facing off against Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin on the other side. Vasilevskiy provided some overtime drama, lunging to his right to get a pad on Panarin’s one-timer that would have won the game. It was great hockey and hopefully we’ll see more of these teams down the road.
Oh no, Juuse Saros
Every once in a while, you see something like this.
Kings defenseman Christian Folin said assistant coach Dave Lowry warned of Predators goaltender Juuse Saros leaving the net early on dump-ins. Folin caught Saros cheating even before he shot the puck into the zone in their game on Saturday night, and just before he let it go, he changed direction and shot it directly on goal.
And … it went in.
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Pittsburgh has … some issues
Doesn’t it feel like we have this conversation every year?
Somehow, the Penguins have had a hard time scoring goals at even strength — 17 of their 42 goals have come on the power play — and no player on the team has more goals than Evgeni Malkin and Conor Sheary, who each have six. Six goals is good enough for the Penguins’ team goal-scoring lead through 16 games. That’s kind of crazy.
On the other end, it’s been equally concerning.
The Penguins had to rid themselves of Antti Niemi, who they signed in the offseason to back up Matt Murray, less than a month into the season. They are currently running with Tristan Jarry to spell Murray, but the Penguins’ defensive troubles go beyond the goaltending position. No team in the Eastern Conference has allowed more goals than Pittsburgh (58), and only one team in the entire league (Arizona, 62) has given up more.
There’s plenty for head coach Mike Sullivan to wrap his mind around, but the Penguins have managed to stay in the picture. They’re 8-6-2, a point back of the Blue Jackets, and lurking.
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The Canucks and their surprising goal-scorer
Vancouver has looked just fine under first-year head coach Travis Green.
We’re a month into the season, but the Canucks’ start has been overlooked … partially because they play way out west, and partially because of the Golden Knights.
They’re 7-4-2 with a positive goal differential, decent 5-on-5 shot metrics (51 percent Corsi) and a leading goal scorer you’ve all heard of.
That’s right. Derek Dorsett.
Dorsett has six goals — one more than emerging star Brock Boeser and the reliable Bo Horvat — in a feel-good story rebound season. Dorsett’s had a brutal run-in with injuries and had had to fight to stay in the league, but after playing 14 games a year ago, he’s back and healthy (and producing). The 30-year-old Dorsett, who was part of that Marian Gaborik-to-Columbus trade four years ago, has never scored more than 12 goals in a season, which he did in 2011-12 with the Blue Jackets.
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Carey Price has been oddly bad
3.77 is a pretty solid number for an earned run average.
It’s not as great for a goals-against average.
Carey Price, who we widely accept as the best goaltender in the NHL, shares the same GAA as his backup, Al Montoya, the guy who Michel Therrien left to the pack of wolves that was the Blue Jackets, who beat Montreal 10-0 one year ago this week. Price’s early struggles are surprising because he’s typically at the heart of Montreal’s success. Through 15 games, the Canadiens are anything but successful at 5-8-1 with the second-worst goal differential (minus-16) in the East.
It’s probably more than reasonable to think Price will stop more than 87 percent of the shots he faces this season. When he does, the Canadiens will likely go on a run and get back in this thing, but right now, they’re a full 13 points back of division-leading Tampa Bay.
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Please pronounce Conor Sheary’s name correctly
It’s not Connor “Sheer-y,” but Connor “Share-y.”
He finally set the record straight last week.